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So You Want to Be a Firefighter? Part One - Introduction

Updated on April 19, 2010
Goin' in?
Goin' in?

An Overview

Greetings, and welcome to my effort to provide some insight into the world of firefighting. My name is Trevor Wilson . I am working on my seventh year as a career firefighter in the city of Indianapolis. In this Hub, I hope to offer what little insight I have gained through working for a largely part-time department (White River Township - just south of Indianapolis), a small professional department (Warren Township - east side of Indianapolis) and a large, metro department (Indianapolis Fire Department). At this point, I will beg for your patience and forgiveness. While I do possess a BS in Education from Indiana University, writing is not my strong suit. Please bear with me (not bare with me; that would be a little uncomfortable).

AEvans suggested that I write a Hub on the challenges of firefighting. To do so properly requires the investigation of several different areas of the profession. To kick this off, I will begin by examining the most common types of departments found in our country. These range from all-volunteer units (pitching in to protect vast areas of rural land) to the famous professional urban units such as FDNY and the Chicago Fire Department. You may be surprised by how similar these types of departments still are. This look will be followed by an examination of the pros and cons of pursuing this line of work. Many of these issues are obvious, but there are still many topics that warrant discussion. Hopefully, I can provide some food for thought for the perspective firefighter.

As many people have found out, perhaps the most difficult challenge is simply getting hired. The openings are scarce, the competition is fierce, and the process itself can be rather intimidating. If you are lucky enough to be chosen for the job, you must be prepared to run the physical and mental gauntlet that is recruit school. Long hours of studying, coupled with intense physical training both in the weight room and on the fireground can take their toll on even the toughest of individuals. Upon the completion of your training, you will be introduced to several new challenges on “the street.” How will you adjust to your new schedule? How will you handle the duties of a probationary firefighter? Can you get along with your co-workers for 24 hours at a time? Have you retained your training? Do you have what it takes to work for a different boss everyday and adjust to his/her expectations?

The first year on the street can be very stressful for a number of reasons; however, once you are beyond that, things settle down greatly. At this point, you are free to begin exploring your career options in earnest. Do you prefer engine or truck work? Are you interested in working on a tactical team (auto-extrication, ropes, confined space, haz-mat, etc.)? Will you pursue advancement in the form of becoming an engineer or an officer? At some point in the near future, you will gain a much more significant level of control over your career. What do you want to become and how will you get there?

My plan of attack is to tackle these topics in the following order:

1. Volunteer vs. Professional, Rural vs. Urban
2. Pro’s and Con’s of “The Job”
3. Hiring Process
4. Recruit School
5. Probationary Year
6. Differences Between Engine and Truck Work
7. Tactical Teams
8. Advancement.

I’m not sure how often I will add entries. I am currently off work with a broken foot, so I do have plenty of time to write. Hopefully I can bang this out in a few weeks and still provide some interesting articles. Thanks for coming this far, and please, consider reading my next entry.


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